Ironically Titled “Slabs” Bursts with Life & Sensitivity

Funerals and memorial services are funny things because they are not for the dead.  They are for the living.  It gives people a chance to say good-bye (or good riddance depending on the relationship), to share stories and memories, and to make peace.  These ideas drive Slabs, an original play written by local actress, Kaitlyn McClincy, and presented as a staged reading on Monday and Tuesday at the Shelterbelt Theatre.

Ms McClincy’s script shows a remarkable amount of promise.  It is a well told story (even the stage directions are a nice bit of prose), is well paced, features some strongly developed characters, and has a brilliant twist in the plot.  Throw in some powerful direction and a cast of talented storytellers and you have all the necessary elements for a fine night of theatre.

Noah Diaz, a relative newcomer to directing, has an instinct for direction that seasoned veterans would envy .  He coached some marvelous performances from his cast, set a nice, steady pace, and displayed an intimate understanding of the beats of the script.

Brent Spencer gave a haunting performance as Walter Clarke, the mortician of his small town.  Walter takes his work very seriously.  He is a stickler for rules and procedures, but he also has a great respect for the dead.  Spencer does excellent work in communicating both the firmness and the sensitivity of Walter.  At one moment, Walter will come down on his subordinates for not following protocol, but in the next he will show tender loving care towards the dead by insisting on replacing a beat up suit with a nice one, demanding that the dead be referred to by their names instead of slabs (the medical school nickname for cadavers), or comforting grieving family members of the departed.

Spencer also gives a nice little bit of social awkwardness to Walter.  He is clearly more comfortable around the dead than the living and often makes weak jokes and puns on death.  Walter is also a workaholic who doesn’t have enough time to spend with his family.  This becomes most apparent in the show’s final monologue as Walter grieves over a corpse that has personal significance to him.  Spencer handles the scene beautifully and several members of the audience shed tears during his speech.

Cathy Hirsch and Jonathan Purcell shine as Nancy Dawson, the funeral home’s office manager, and Henry Rollins, Walter’s apprentice.  Ms Hirsch and Mr. Purcell had a spot on chemistry with each other that was essential for the attraction between the two characters.  The two performers had some of the best scenes of the night with their humorous and witty banter.

As Nancy, Ms Hirsch is the more animated and snarky of the two.  Whether she was lamenting a date that was not to be, telling Henry she had a crush on him to see if he was actively listening, or setting a basketball behind the driver’s seat of the hearse to make Henry think a severed head was rolling around, Ms Hirsch made Nancy the life’s blood of the funeral home with her love of living and her sense of humor.

As Henry, Purcell was the yang to Hirsch’s yin.  Henry was a bit more aloof than Nancy and somewhat misanthropic.  He dropped out of med school due to his dislike of dealing with patients.  Instead, Henry entered mortuary sciences due to its formulaic nature and lack of contact with living people.  But Henry also has a wry, even dark, sense of humor evidenced by a practical joke where Henry made Nancy think a corpse had returned to life. Purcell’s knack for comedy served him well as he ably handled the funny dialogue as well as demonstrated his difficulty in dealing with the living when he has an argument with a rude client (played by Ben Thorp).

Matthew Pyle’s turn as Hank Cartwright is tragic and heavy.  The play opens with the death of his son and Hank embodies the sadder side of death.  Pyle’s Hank is so stricken with grief that he is almost numb.  He’s angry at his son for not being a safer driver, angry at the drunk driver who killed his boy, angry at his son’s girlfriend for asking for a ride home that night, and probably angry at himself for not being the husband his wife needs at this sad time.  Hank doesn’t say much, but Pyle is able to say plenty in the silence with skillful reactions and revealing expressions.

Judy Radcliff has a memorable part as Mrs. Withem, who embodies the happier side of death.  Her husband has recently passed and while she is sad, she chooses to remember the good times.  Ms Radcliff’s Mrs. Withem is a talkative sort who is also prone to making bad jokes about death.  Her charm is infectious and talking about the death of her husband and the little things they did to make each other happy is crucial to helping Pyle’s Hank begin to work through his own crushing grief.

Other strong performances came from Connie Lee who played Emily Cartwright, the grieving wife of Hank, Jim McKain, as a pastor with his own doubts, and Lauren Krupski who did an admirable job with the prosey stage directions.  The only flaw, such as it was, in the performances was that some of the actors needed to speak louder and project more.

Although Ms McClincy has written a very solid script, I did see some room for edits.  An extended joke about a clogged toilet seemed unnecessary for the story and an arc focusing on an ungrateful son needed some more development and a more satisfying conclusion.  With that being said, the script does have an immense amount of potential and I would encourage the Shelterbelt to make this a full scale production in the near future, especially with the caliber of direction and acting displayed in the staged reading.

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Omaha Premiere Opens SNAP Productions 2015-16 Season

In The Bones by Cory Daigle

August 20-Sept 13, 2015

When a soldier home from serving in Afghanistan ends his life, grief settles over his family and the partner he leaves behind. In a series of scenes moving ahead a year at a time, loss transforms a family and sorrow finds a home in the bones of those left behind.

Tickets on sale now.  Contact the box office at 402-341-2757 or make reservations at www.snapproductions.comTickets are $15.00 for Adults; $12.00 for Students, TAG and Seniors. We are continuing our “Throwback Thursday” pricing of $10.00 tickets for all Thursday shows. Our Thursday, August 20th performance will be a TAG Night Out preview show to benefit the Theatre Arts Guild Scholarship Fund. Showtimes are 8pm Thurs-Sat and 6pm on Sundays.  The Sept 13 show will have a 2pm start time.  SNAP Productions is located at 3225 California St in Omaha, NE.

Directed by M Michele Phillips

Featuring

Stephanie Anderson as Kate

Corie Grant-Leanna as Chloe

Eric Grant-Leanna as Luke

Dan Luethke as Ben

David Mainelli as Kenny

Sally Neumann Scamfer as Dee

Crime Drama to Open Omaha Playhouse’s 91st Season

Mauritius by Theresa Rebeck

August 14-Sept 13, 2015

Absorbing and suspenseful, Mauritius is a fast-paced dark comedy of the thrilling world of philately (stamp collecting). When two half-sisters inherit a potentially valuable stamp collection upon their mother’s death, differing views on what to do with the stamps lead them to risky situations with nefarious characters. Propelled by a tight plot and quick dialogue, Mauritius will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Contains strong language and violence

Tickets go on sale August 4.  Contact the Box Office at 402-553-0800 or toll free at 1-888-742-4338 for details.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cast Street in Omaha, NE.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.

Directed by Jeff Horger

Featuring

Jackie – Alissa Walker

Dennis – Will Muller

Philip – Karl Rohling

Sterling – Chris Shonka

Mary – Julie Fitzgerald Ryan

“Detroit 67” to Open Omaha Playhouse’s Alternative Programming Series on July 13

Detroit 67 by Dominique Morrisseau

A staged reading at the Howard Drew Theatre at the Omaha Playhouse.

Directed by Lara Marsh

Featuring

Chelle (or Michelle), played by Denise Chapman
Lank (or Langston), played by Shaun Greene
Caroline, played by Emily Mokrycki
Sly (or Sylvester), played by Anthony Holmes
Bunny, played by Rusheaa Smith-Turner
Devel Crisp will be reading Stage Directions

Synopsis

Set during the explosive Detroit race riots of 1967, Detroit 67 is the story of two siblings trying to make ends meet. They turn their basement into an after-hours joint in an attempt to bring in some money. When a mysterious woman finds her way into their lives, the siblings clash over much more than the family business.
Contains mature content.

Detroit 67 will be performed on July 13 at 7:30pm.  Admission is free and reservations are not required.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE

Eureka, Ho!!!, Days 4 & 5: Sailing, Solitude, and the Supernatural

After another full night of sleep, I was ready to attack a new day. . .right after breakfast.

Fruit Smoothie

Fruit Smoothie

Oat walnut pancakes and turkey bacon

Oat walnut pancakes and turkey bacon

Orange butter sauce for the pancakes.

Orange butter sauce for the pancakes.

Today’s meal began with a delicious fruit smoothie followed by a main entrée of oat walnut pancakes with orange butter sauce and turkey bacon.  I rank this meal as one of the three best that I’ve eaten since I began this project.  There wasn’t much time to relax after breakfast because I had to get out to Beaver Lake so I could take a cruise on the Belle of the Ozarks.

Belle of the Ozarks

Belle of the Ozarks

Beaver Lake is a 35,000 acre lake and popular for swimming, scuba diving, boating, and fishing.  It also has a reputation as a world class striped bass fishing spot so I’ll be certain to alert my angler of an older brother as that would get him and his brood down here, lickety split.

It was a perfect day for a cruise, but I would recommend a microphone or bullhorn for the skipper because it was very difficult to hear him over the roar of the boat.  He did have a couple of tales which made for interesting listening.

The first was when we passed a marker.  Allegedly, it is a magical spot and if one plunks a penny by the marker, his or her wish will come true.  I drilled the marker with my penny, so let’s see if my wish comes true. . .

25 feet below that marker is a submerged mountain.  Allegedly this spot is magical and has the power to grant wishes.

25 feet below that marker is a submerged mountain. Allegedly this spot is magical and has the power to grant wishes.

Soooo, moving right along, the marker actually held a purpose.  Twenty-five feet below the marker was a submerged mountain and on that submerged mountain was a submerged house.  It was a pity that both were unable to be seen.

The other story was about the value of land around the lake.  He pointed out an island that had some ritzy homes on it.  He said the owner had bought two half-acres which cost $177,000 each.  He said that news put a smile on his face because 25 years ago he had bought 70 acres of lakeside property for a song.  I’ve crunched the numbers for you.  The skipper’s property valuation is $24,780,000!!!  That’s one heck of a nest egg.  That’s right.  Chris’ Corner is not only fun, but is educational, too.

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Another interesting bit of fun is that the skipper dipped a glass into the water and pulled up a glassful of lake water.  It was crystal clear.  He explained that the first 25 feet or so of the lake (it’s 250 feet at its deepest) is exposed to so much ultraviolet radiation from the sun that it actually kills all pathogens and bakes, for lack of a better term, it clean.  To prove his point, he said this water can actually be drunk and told us to take a sip if we wished.  I did take a nip and it tasted just fine.

After 90 minutes, our boat docked and I decided to take a visit to the Blue Spring Heritage Center.  The water is literally blue and is reported to have healing properties.  Thirty-eight million gallons of water run through the spring each year.  The site also has some historical significance as it is also part of the Trail of Tears.  According to the informational film, the 9 day stopover at Blue Spring provided the lone beacon of hope to the Cherokee during their tragic journey.  Aside from the spring, the area is also known for its wildflower and rock gardens.

The Blue Spring

The Blue Spring

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This mound is where the Cherokee camped for 9 days as they walked the Trail of Tears.

This mound is where the Cherokee camped for 9 days as they walked the Trail of Tears.

It was the first truly hot day I had experienced in Eureka Springs so I decided to retreat to the comfort of the Inn at Rose Hall to organize my notes and relax until dinner.

FUN FACT:  Despite the heat, you will not be plagued by mosquitoes in Eureka Springs.  There is a massive bat population in the city and they keep the pesky bloodsuckers in check by feeding upon them at night.

For dinner, I decided to try a little fine dining and went to Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse just outside of Eureka Springs.  It’s a tiny little establishment and you just might miss it as it actually looks like a tiny house.  It was actually much smaller at one point as the restaurant built around the original log cabin (which is 150 years old).

I enjoyed a fresh dinner salad with homemade ranch dressing and a sirloin steak with a loaded baked potato.  This was one of the best, if not the best, steak I have ever tasted.  It was cooked just right and was seasoned to perfection.  I savored every delicious bite and took over half of it with me to enjoy for my supper on my return home the next day.

After a few hours of puttering around, it was time for my final event of the trip.  Incredibly, for the third straight time, I would be returning to my explorations of the supernatural as I would be taking the Ghost Tour at the Crescent Hotel and Spa.

The Crescent Hotel & Spa built in 1886.

The Crescent Hotel & Spa built in 1886.

The hotel was built in 1886 and has quite the interesting past.  My tour was led by Marshall Jon Law who was a very animated, entertaining, and gregarious guide.  He began by giving us an abbreviated history of the hotel and then went into how the hotel is considered the most haunted in America and one of the most haunted buildings in the country.  So strong is the hotel’s haunted reputation that it has been featured on Ghost Hunters and an event called ESP Weekend is held every January in which the hotel contains nothing but paranormal investigators.

Each floor had unique stories behind them and there was even photographic evidence of strange goings-on that Marshall showed to the visitors.  As Marshall told us, 95% of supernatural activity can be explained or debunked by science, leaving 5% that science cannot currently explain.  These photos fell into the 5% category.

Our guide, Marshall Jon Law.

Our guide, Marshall Jon Law.

Out of the numerous tales we heard, there were three that stood out.  Two were rather lighthearted and the third was a dark chapter in the hotel’s history.

The first tale is that of the anti-poltergeist, Theodora.  Theodora was a very neat, clean, and tidy person in life and that attribute has followed her into the afterlife because this ghost picks up after you.  There were reports of make-up kits being put away, compacts closed, and lipsticks capped.  Apparently if you’re sloppy enough, Theodora will actually pack your bags and leave them by the door for you in a not so subtle way of saying, “Get out!”

The second tale was that of the traditional poltergeist, Michael.  Michael was a young Irishman who did construction work on the hotel.  Michael also had a fondness for women which ultimately caused his death.  While working up high an attractive woman passed by under Michael and, while attempting to get a better look at her, Michael fell, struck a beam over room 218, and perished.

Since then Room 218 has been Michael’s room and he still has a liking for the ladies.  Reports have been made of the shower faucets being fiddled with while women are bathing, the curtains being tied in knots, and women being gently caressed by unseen hands.  Michael does not believe in sharing women as it is reported that he, quite literally, kicks the men out of the bed.

Astoundingly, women seem to have an attraction to Michael!  As Marshall told us, the ratio of women renting that room to men is 5 to 1.  Some of these women even have “dates” with Michael such as pouring a drink for him or having an extra meal brought in.

The third tale was a black mark in the hotel’s history.  At one point a man named Norman Baker bought the hotel and turned it into a cancer clinic.  Baker was a highly intelligent liar and con artist who had never stepped foot into a medical school, yet called himself a doctor and claimed he could cure cancer.  According to Marshall, Baker was a big believer in the power of the mind.  Having been misdiagnosed with a terminal illness as a child, Baker was determined to overcome the illness with positive thinking.  As years went by and he did not die, Baker convinced himself that he had thought the illness into oblivion and this was the core idea of his cancer cure.

The fourth floor was split into two sections:  a convalescing area and an asylum.  In the convalescing area, cancer patients were taught how to “hug out the cancer” as Marshall said.  They would think good thoughts and share the stories of the good times they had before getting sick and the good times they would have after the cancer vanished.  If patients did not get better, then they were obviously crazy and would get transferred to the asylum section where they were given shots of Baker’s Special Serum No. 5 8-10 times a day!

The needle used to deliver these shots was massive and the shots were extremely painful.  The doors in the asylum were 3 inches thick to drown out the screams and groans of the patients.  When the patients died, nurses would sneak into their rooms in the wee hours of the morning and cart the bodies down to the morgue, which still exists and we did visit it.

Adding insult to injury, Baker would continue to charge families for treatment after the patient’s death.  Baker constantly feared for his life, with good reason as the Mafia made 3 attempts on it, and was protected by heavily armed bodyguards and kept a pair of Tommy guns in his bulletproof office for added precaution.

For all the misery this quack caused, he was finally nailed for mail fraud since he sent out flyers saying he could cure cancer.  He was sentenced to 4 years in prison, bribed his way out, and died of cancer himself after moving to a houseboat where he promoted a cure for tuberculosis.

There have been reports of gurneys squeaking down the hall in the wee hours of the morning and some have reported seeing apparitions of nurses moving the ghostly bodies down the hall to the elevator.  While we were in the morgue we watched a clip from the Ghost Hunters episode in which the hunters investigated the hotel and they had thermal footage of what appeared to be a man in a top hat staring at the investigators.

Inside the morgue.  Where Marshall is standing is where thermal footage was caught of a ghost in Ghost Hunters.

Inside the morgue. Where Marshall is standing is where thermal footage was caught of a ghost in Ghost Hunters.

Whether you believe in the supernatural or are a hardened skeptic, I do highly recommend the tour because you will get interesting tales and an intriguing look at history.

I was supposed to take part in the hotel’s Flickering Tales event which shares ghost stories about the Eureka Springs area, but the event got canceled due to low sales.  It would have been nice if that had been posted someplace as the 3 of us who did buy tickets were not staying at the hotel.  As it is, I’ll be contacting the hotel in the morning to get a refund for the event.  But as my night had come to an early end, I decided to head back to Rose Hall for some shuteye.

For my final breakfast at the Inn at Rose Hall, I started with a carafe of orange juice and a dish of strawberries, cream, and granola.  The main course was green eggs and ham (and I liked them, Sam I Am) with a side dish of fried potatoes.

Straweberries, cream, and granola.

Straweberries, cream, and granola.

Green eggs, ham, and fried potatoes.

Green eggs, ham, and fried potatoes.

My stay in Eureka Springs had all the hallmarks of a great adventure.  I was ready to get home, but kind of reluctant to leave as I had such a great time.  Zoie’s hospitality and entertaining (or cooking, if you will) were of the very best quality.  But don’t take my word for it.  Reserve a room at the Inn at Rose Hall and experience it for yourself.  There’s a lot to do in this town and you will have an enjoyable stay.

Till the next adventure. . .

2015 T.A.G. Awards Nominations

This evening the Theatre Arts Guild announced the nominations for the 2015 T.A.G. Awards.  The event was held at the Pizza Shoppe in the Benson district of Omaha, NE and hosted by Steve and Debbie Krambeck.

And the nominees are:

Best Featured Actress in a Play
Stephanie Anderson, Marie, “Calendar Girls,” SNAP! Productions
Phyllis Bonds, Julia Ward McKinlock, “Sabrina Fair,” Bellevue Little Theatre
Susan Baer Collins, Mrs. Soames, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre
Kim Jubenville, Beverly, “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays,” Blue Barn Theatre
Julie Fitzgerald Ryan, Felicia Dantine, “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Featured Actor in a Play
Dennis Collins, Simon Stimson, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre
Scott Fowler, Various Roles, “Calendar Girls,” SNAP! Productions
Steve Hartman, Various Roles, “ENRON,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Benn Sieff, Various Roles, “Calendar Girls,” SNAP! Productions
Dave Wingert, Gary Peter Lefkowitz, “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best New Script
“The Other Sewing Circle,” Marie Amthor, Shelterbelt Theatre
“Abby in the Summer,” A.P. Andrews, Shelterbelt Theatre
“Mickey & Sage,” Sara Farrington, Shelterbelt Theatre
“In the Jungle You Must Wait,” Jeremy Johnson, Shelterbelt Theatre
“Buffalo Bill’s Cowboy Band,” Max Sparber, Rose Theater

Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Angie Heim, Lynne ‘Squeaky’ Fromme, “Assassins,” Chanticleer Theatre
Julia Mackenzie, Kitty, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Sarah Query, Sara Jane Moore, “Assassins,” Chanticleer Theatre
Sarah Query, Rona Lisa Peretti, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Ralston Community Theatre
Jodi Vaccaro, Miss Andrew, “Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater

Best Featured Actor in a Musical
Joe Dignoti, Feldzieg, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Chris Ebke, Chris Alvaro, “Hands on a Hardbody,” Omaha Community Playhouse
John Gawjewski, Mitch Mahoney, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Ralston Community Theatre
Mike Palmreuter, Robertson Ay, “Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater
Nik Whitcomb, Ronald McCowan, “Hands on a Hardbody,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Youth Actress
Quinn Desjardins, Helen Keller, “The Miracle Worker,” Bellevue Little Theatre
Chloe Irwin, Charles Wallace, “A Wrinkle in Time,” Rose Theater
Emma Johnson, Mary Lennox, “The Secret Garden,” Chanticleer Theatre
Ryleigh Welsh, Lottie Adams, “Harbor,” SNAP! Productions
Erin Wolf, Annie, “Annie,” Papillion–La Vista Community Theatre

Best Youth Actor
Ben Adams, Scott Farkus, “A Christmas Story,” Rose Theater
Danny Denenberg, Ralphie, “A Christmas Story,” Rose Theater
Danny Denenberg, Colin, “The Secret Garden,” Chanticleer Theatre
Austin Lempke, Wilbur, “Charlotte’s Web,” Rose Theater
Aiden Schmidtke, Michael Banks, “Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater

Best Scenic Design
Matthew D. Hamel, “Cabaret,” Creighton University
Martin Marchitto, “American Buffalo,” Blue Barn Theatre
Jim Othuse, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Jim Othuse, “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Ronnie Wells, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” SNAP! Productions

Best Sound Design
Tim Burkhart & John Gibilisco, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse
John Gibilisco, “ENRON,” Omaha Community Playhouse
John Gibilisco, “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Martin Magnuson, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre
Daena Schweiger, “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation…,” SNAP! Productions

Best Lighting Design
Darrin Golden, “The Secret Garden,” Chanticleer Theatre
Jim Othuse, “ENRON,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Kyle Toth, “Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater
Bill Van Deest, “Cabaret,” Creighton University
Carol Wisner, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Pamela Chase, Carol, “The Other Sewing Circle,” Shelterbelt Theatre
Megan Friend, Honey, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Julie Huff, Mrs. Webb, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre
Kim Jubenville, Lillian Troy, “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Moira Mangiameli, Mrs. Gibbs, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Kevin Barratt, John Barrymore, “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Aaron Ellis, Actor 2/Black Man, “We Are Proud to Present a Presenation…,” SNAP! Productions
Thomas Gjere, Actor 1/White Man, “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation…,” SNAP! Productions
Steve Hartman, Nick, “Who’s Afriad of Virginia Woolf?,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Chris Shonka, Andy Fastow, “ENRON,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Costume Design
Lydia Dawson, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Denise Ervin, “Little Women,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Sherri Geerdes, “Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater
Lindsay Pape, “Cabaret,” Creighton University
Sharon Sobel, “Freakshow,” University of Nebraska–Omaha

Best Properties Design
Darin Kuehler, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Darin Kuehler, “ENRON,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Darin Kuehler, “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Darin Kuehler, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Amy Reiner, “American Buffalo,” Blue Barn Theatre
Liz Spray, “Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Rebecca Noble, Norma Valverde, “Hands on a Hardbody,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Megan McGuire, Chaperone, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Camille Metoyer Moten, Marmee, “Little Women,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Sarah Query, Martha, “The Secret Garden,” Chanticleer Theatre
Judy Radcliff, Fraulein Schneider, “Cabaret,” Creighton University

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Matthias Jeske, Various Roles, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Joseph O’Connor, Robert Martin, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Brian Priesman, Patsy, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Mike Palmreuter, Aldolpho, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Mike Palmreuter, Herr Schultz, “Cabaret,” Creighton University

Best Ensemble
“Five Forever,” “Little Women,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Photo shoot, “Calendar Girls,” SNAP! Productions
“Step in Time,” “Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater
“Toledo Surprise,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
“You Won’t Succeed on Broadway,” “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Special Event
“Prince Max’s Trewly Awful Trip to the Desolat Interior,” Great Plains Theatre Conference
“Lost Boy Found at Whole Foods,” Omaha Community Playhouse
“Untitled Series #7,” Shelterbelt Theatre
“Cowle’s Scrimmage Anthology,” Great Plains Theatre Conference
“Whose Lofte Is It Anyway?,” Lofte Theatre

Best Music Direction
Jim Boggess, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Mitch Fuller, “Hands on a Hardbody,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Zachary Peterson, “Annie,” Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre
Stephen Sheftz, “Cabaret,” Creighton Uniersity
Tim Vallier, “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” Candy Project

Best Choreographer
Sue Gillespie Booton, “Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater
Roxanne Nielsen, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Debbie Massey, “Annie,” Papillion-La Vista Community Theatre
Patrick Roddy, “Cabaret,” Creighton University
Melanie Walters, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Director of a Play
Susan Clement-Toberer, “American Buffalo,” Blue Barn Theatre
Susan Clement-Toberer, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre
Noah Diaz and M. Michele Phillips, “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation…,” SNAP! Productions
Cathy M.W. Kurz, “An Iliad,” Brigit St. Brigit Theatre
Ablan Roblin, “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Elizabeth Thompson, “The Other Sewing Circle,” Shelterbelt Theatre

Best Director of a Musical
Hilary Adams, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Amy Lane, “Cabaret,” Creighton University
Jim McKain, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Ralston Community Theatre
Mark Robinson, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Randall T. Stevens, “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” The Candy Project

Best Leading Actress in a Play
Megan Friend, Daphna, “Bad Jews,” Blue Barn Theatre
Moira Mangiameli, Sonia, “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” SNAP! Productions
Doran Schmidt, Amalia, “Freakshow,” University of Nebraska–Omaha
Kelsi Weston, Emily Webb, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre
Charleen Willoughby, Martha, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Leading Actor in a Play
Ben Beck, Andrew Rally, “I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Craig Bond, Randle P. McMurphy, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Chanticleer Theatre
Daniel Dorner, Poet, “An Iliad,” Brigit St. Brigit Theatre
Nils Haaland, Stage Manager, “Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre
Matthew Pyle, Jeff Skilling, “ENRON,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Leanne Hill Carlson, Mary Poppins, “Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater
Colleen Kilcoyne, Sally Bowles, “Cabaret,” Creighton University
Sims Lamason, Jo March, “Little Women,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Molly McGuire, Janet Van de Graaff, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Melanie Walters, Lady of the Lake, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Leading Actor in a Musical
Nick Albrecht, King Arthur, “Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse
Dan Chevalier, Bud Davenport, “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” The Candy Project
Ephriam Harnsberger, Emcee, “Cabaret,” Creighton University
Steve Krambeck, Doug Simon, “Gutenberg! The Musical!,” The Candy Project
Dave Wingert, Man in Chair, “The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Comedy
“Bad Jews,” Blue Barn Theatre
“Calendar Girls,” SNAP! Productions
“Harbor,” SNAP! Productions
“I Hate Hamlet,” Omaha Community Playhouse
“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,” SNAP! Productions

Best Drama
“Our Town,” Blue Barn Theatre
“The Other Sewing Circle,” Shelterbelt Theatre
“Walk the Night,” Blue Barn Theatre
“We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915,” SNAP! Productions
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Best Musical
“Cabaret,” Creighton University Theatre
“The Drowsy Chaperone,” Omaha Community Playhouse
“Gutenberg! The Musical!,” The Candy Project
“Mary Poppins,” Rose Theater
“Spamalot,” Omaha Community Playhouse

Eureka, Ho!!, Day 3: The Faith Spelunker

After sipping my sherry, I made use of the Jacuzzi tub and enjoyed a long hot bath before turning in for the night.  It was one of the most comfortable sleeps I have ever enjoyed.  The mattress almost seemed to consist of memory foam and perhaps it did.  All I know is that the combination of comfy mattress and lull of my trusty fan put my lights out good and proper.

When I awoke the next morning, I did a quick news check to find out who won at the Omaha Playhouse’s Awards Night and did a brief write-up for the theatre news part of my website.  I had a shave and then went downstairs to breakfast.

A glass of water and a carafe of orange-cranberry juice waited on my table.  Zoie placed a small dish of grapes and cream in front of me along with my massage certificate and tickets for a few events I had paid for online.  After the fruit had been eaten, Zoie presented me with 3 sausage links nestled on a bed of Mexican eggs.  A little dash of hot sauce made this meal a delicious and zesty affair.

A dish of grapes and cream to start the day.

A dish of grapes and cream to start the day.

Sausage links on a bed of Mexican eggs.

Sausage links on a bed of Mexican eggs.

I went back to my room and finished my Cannon novel.  Then I grabbed my keys and headed to Focus Massage for a one hour massage at the hands of Mimi Vail who bore a strong resemblance to the actress, Linda Hunt.  Her ministrations brought full mobility to my shoulders and energized me for the rest of the day.

From there, I drove to Berryville, AR so I could experience the Cosmic Caverns.  I was part of a small tour group led by Griffin (a surprisingly mature looking 17 year old) who spent the better part of an hour showing us the myriad rock formations, pure natural onyx (he flashed a light through it to show the translucence), and the two bottomless lakes (no, not literally, they’re just very deep).

The OMG room.

The OMG room.

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Would you believe this guy is only 17?

Would you believe this guy is only 17?

On the drive back to Eureka Springs, I made a quick pullover to enjoy the view of a scenic outlook.  After snapping some quick photos I made my way to Thorncrown Chapel.

Scenic overlook

Scenic overlook

Called “one of the finest religious spaces of modern times” by critics and ranked fourth on the list of the top buildings of the twentieth century by the AIA, Thorncrown Chapel is a awe-inspiring structure of wood and glass.  So skillfully designed, you may, like I did, make the mistake of assuming that the clear space is merely “open” space.  In reality it is 6,000 feet of glass divided into 425 windows.

Thorncrown Chapel

Thorncrown Chapel

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Thorncrown Chapel’s construction also had an interesting story behind it.  In 1971, Jim Reed purchased the land where Thorncrown Chapel would eventually be built.  People often stopped by to admire the property and the view of the Ozark hills, so Jim decided to build a glass chapel so visitors would have a place to relax in an inspiring way.

On March 23, 1979, work began on the chapel.  But halfway through construction the money ran out and, despite his best efforts, Jim was unable to gain more funding.  One night, Jim took what he thought would be his last walk to look at his half-finished chapel and then had an experience.  As Jim said, “I am not proud of the fact, but the first time I ever got down on my knees was on the chapel floor.  I prayed more seriously than ever before.  All the trials and tribulations gave me the humility to get on my knees.”  A few days later, a miracle occurred when a generous woman from Illinois loaned Jim the money to complete construction.  On July 10, 1980, Thorncrown Chapel was open to the public.

Thorncrown Chapel is dedicated to Jesus’ words that all would be welcome at His Father’s table.  The chapel actually does hold 2 worship services on Sunday and stresses that all are invited to attend.  An attendant is present during visiting hours to pray with those who wish to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.

Visiting this chapel had a profound effect on me.  My faith has always been an important part of my life and I can honestly say I felt the presence of God clearly as I sat in that chapel.  I just felt such a feeling of peace and warmth that tears began to fill my eyes.  If you’re in Eureka Springs, you must visit this chapel.  For those who believe, you’ll feel closer to the Lord.  For those who don’t or simply aren’t sure, well, you just might before your visit is over.

I returned to the inn for a few hours of relaxation and compiling my notes.  Then it was time for my big event of the evening:  watching The Great Passion Play.

Originally, I had intended to actually review the show.  However, I ended up deciding against it for two very important reasons:

  1. There was no program, so writing a proper review would have been very difficult.
  2. This wasn’t a typical play as its purpose was to tell the story of Jesus’ redeeming of humanity as opposed to being an ordinary play.

The play is held in an outdoor amphitheatre and the grounds also contain a Bible museum, a replica of the Holy Land, as well as the famous Christ of the Ozarks statue (the biggest in the United States).  The play is world famous having been seen by 7.8 million people since it began in 1968.

Christ of the Ozarks

Christ of the Ozarks

The set is the most impressive I have ever seen.  It really gives one the feeling of being in Jerusalem back in the time of Christ.  The costumes are also well suited to the show and there are some pretty nifty special and lighting effects to the production.  It features a cast of over 140 actors and a menagerie of live animals.

Set of The Great Passion Play

Set of The Great Passion Play

The dialogue for the show is pre-recorded so the performers pantomime over the dialogue and the mimed performances were quite good.  Putting on my critic’s hat for a moment, the interpretation of the dialogue was mediocre and sounded like the records I liked to listen to as a child.  Then again, this play was meant to share a message as opposed to being a proper production.

All in all, it was a memorable and moving show and I would highly recommend watching it if you find yourself in Eureka Springs.  As for myself, I was whipped after the day’s shenanigans and have returned wearily to the inn to climb into bed.

Until the next time. . .